The (Good) Old Days



I love watching old music videos. When I say old, I guess I mean the ones from my youth, the ones they now show on the channel called ‘Vintage TV.’ God, I suppose that makes me vintage as well.

I sat down a few nights ago and caught a half hour or so, and I laughed my ass off. Because these were the days before bands had stylists, where if one guy wanted to show up in a bright green boiler suit and another in his jeans and t-shirt, it was OK. When female artists wore real vintage stuff they sourced themselves, or just whatever was in their closet at the time. Before record labels ‘packaged’ bands to appeal to mass audiences, before make-up and hair and clothing were calculated to the nth degree. When bands were free to show their personalities. It was excellent.

(and before everyone shouts at me, I am fully aware there are still musicians out there who dance to their own drummer, so to speak. But I’m referring to the ‘pop’ charts, the songs that were popular then vs the ones that are popular now).

First cab off the rank was Abba ‘The Winner Takes It All.’ Oh the hair! The jumpsuits! This, to young me, was the height of sophisticated clothing. This was what grown ups wore and how they acted, and I remember I couldn’t wait to have my very own lace trimmed jumper or blousy jumpsuit, tied just so.

Next, the surreal beauty of Boy George and ‘Do You Really Want To Hurt Me’. At the time, Boy George was at the forefront of a fashion movement in London and I think his look still stands the test of time. Imagine if he’d been forced to ‘conform’, to tone down the make-up, maybe not have the floppy fringe and dreadlocks. Sure, the honey voice would have still been there but that point of difference, that thing that made him stand out, would have been lost.

Next stop, Bryan Ferry and ‘Jealous Guy.’ Bryan is the god of cool. That is all.

From the sublime to the ridiculous and Survivor with ‘Eye of the Tiger.’ This I enjoyed immensely. It starts with the band members on the mean streets of some neon lit night time city, marching around as they meet up to stalk along the pavement like some leather clad posse (except for the guy who didn’t get the memo and showed up in a chambray shirt over a white t-shirt – I enjoyed him the most). So they walk along singing, but they don’t walk in time to the music. Instead they walk faster, like they just want to get this part over with. They wander into some sort of warehouse and start playing instruments and, just like that, the outfits change! There are suits with skinny ties, white muscle shirts, and chambray shirt guy has changed his to a darker blue. The back drop is billowing garbage bags and everyone looks super serious, especially the singer, who has retained his beret from his initial look. The drummer for some reason ends the video soaking wet – perhaps he’s sitting under the leaky bit of the roof.

Then an ad break, and we come back to Belinda Carlisle with ‘Heaven is a Place on Earth.’ Belinda always reminds me of a family trip we took to California when I was fifteen, three weeks driving the coast from LA to San Francisco. I loved that trip. But I’m not loving this video. Random thoughts come to me. Why is Belinda stuck in that tight corner? She looks uncomfortable, spinning around and banging into the wall, fidgeting up and down. And why can’t any of her clothes stay on her shoulders? There is kissing and net curtains and strange people wearing masks and holding glowing balls, and then it ends.


I wanted to post a pic of Survivor but you know, permissions and all that. So instead here I am in my eighties glory. Go on, laugh. Paisley jeans, check. James Dean T-shirt, check. Scarf from a jumble sale, check…

When I was thirteen, I was mad about Duran Duran. They sang about sex and women and parties, all wrapped up in poetry and sinuous keyboard sounds. Their look was studied, but it was their own, born out of the club scene they started from. At the height of their popularity they were all in their early twenties, much like the popular boy bands of today. But the point of difference (other than the fact they wrote their own songs and music) was that they were presented to their audience as men, instead of over-coiffed boys singing about girls they liked and summer holidays. And it didn’t matter at all. I still was mad for them, even though I knew they were too old for me and my chances of ever getting close to any of them were zero.

Anyway, I guess what I’m trying to say is that I enjoyed this time in music, when artists were more free to be themselves. Perhaps I’m just old, perhaps I’m edging into ‘get off my lawn’ territory, but I just find a lot of the stuff my daughter sees is so overproduced and packaged it loses any individual appeal.

Does this relate in any way to writing? Probably not, other than the fact I’m writing about it. Perhaps it is that music triggers memories, and memories can trigger ideas, releasing emotions that might lead us to a story or two. Bit of a stretch? Perhaps.

I miss the old days.

3 thoughts on “The (Good) Old Days

  1. Great post – and awesome photograph too. I just made it into my teens in the eighties but, boy, did I love Duran Duran and Belinda Carlisle. Actually, I still rather do, when I’m in the right frame of mind. As you say, dodgy vids aside, there was so much more individuality. Mind you, I seem to remember my parents saying exactly the same thing as we argued over whether to play The Travelling Wilberries (yes, really) or Madonna on the tape deck in the car. And now I am trying to convince my daughter and nieces that a certain very popular boy band represents manufactured, talentless dirge. I have managed to get both my children interested in Abba, thanks to a talent show at their school where one kid sang “Honey Honey”, so baby steps but better than nothing.

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